I wish someone would have told me to delegate more. Just because you started the business does not mean you have to do all the work all the time. You must build a team you can trust so that you all can succeed.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Raquel Riley Thomas.
Raquel Riley Thomas is an Entrepreneur, Pageant Queen, and Military-Veteran. She is the owner of An Officer and Gentlewoman, LLC, a media and entertainment company, headquartered in Washington, DC. The company owns and operates 8 brands. Raquel is also a decorated military veteran, having served nine years in the U.S. Army (5-years Enlisted photojournalist; 4-years Ordnance Officer) until 2002.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Thank you for having me. I was born in LaPlata, Maryland and I was raised by a foster mother, Ethel Nelson, until the age of 7. I then went to live with my natural mother and unfortunately, it was a volatile relationship. As soon as I graduated high-school, I decided to go into the military. It was in the best interest of both of us. Unfortunately, she took her life in 2013, and if I could go back and change anything, it would be to sit down and talk to her to try to understand her more.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A life lesson I made up is: A good leader comes to the table with a problem in the left hand and three potential solutions in the right. I instill this Philosophy into my daughters daily. So anytime they come to me with a problem, the first thing I ask them is do they have at least three solutions to that problem.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
There are two books that have made a significant impact on me. The first is “Decision Points” by former President George W. Bush. I was on active duty during 9/11 and to read about his personal thoughts gave me a unique look into his leadership style. The second book that had an impact on me was the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. He gave examples on many types of leadership throughout history. I think it is important to understand as many styles of leadership as you can. I am an optimist, so I believe you can take away a positive from most of them and use them in your own life.
Let us now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
My career experience before the pandemic was basically on a smooth course. Projects were in place. Employees were doing their job. All was rather good. After the pandemic, I had to pull heavy on my military leadership skills. Amid chaos, I tend to get quiet before I decide. We were in the middle of a big project and I had to make some decisions that I knew were not going to be received well. However, I knew I had to make sure that my employees and their families would be safe. So, I planned to literally revamp a whole project within two weeks. We worked long hours; however, the project came out successful so the whole team was happy about that.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
During the pandemic, I decided, along with my two daughters, that we would start new businesses. The three of us wanted people to stay as positive and upbeat as possible during quarantine, so I started a cosmetic business (Raquel Riley Thomas Beauty), my then 13-year-old started a teen cosmetic business (Maria Raquel Thomas Cosmetics), and my 11-year-old tween chef started a cooking business (SJ Savory Kitchen) to show kids how to cook recipes while in quarantine. She also has a cooking wear set for kids and adults.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
The aha moment came when my husband’s medical supply business started to flourish. We realized people were going to need items in quarantine because going to the store to grab needed items would not be as easy. I also started reading how depression was kicking in on women and I wanted to do something to keep them happy. During my years in the beauty and fashion business, I knew that women would still want to wake up and look good on their online meetings. I came up with a 3GL concept: Glam Lashes, Glam Lips, and Glam Lids. By using this formula, women can do their makeup easier and faster.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Our initiatives are going great. More people are becoming aware of our products so that is a good sign. I love seeing the photos of people wearing our products.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are two women I am grateful for. I am grateful for my grandmother, Shirley E. Cartman who was a violin virtuoso. She taught me about beauty and fashion. My foster mother taught me about giving back to those in need. So, a portion of our proceeds goes back into the community through non-profits we stand behind.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
One interesting thing that happened was that I inked a deal to have my own television show to talk about all things, beauty, fashion, and lifestyle. I am both humbled and excited.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1) I wish someone would have told me that you will not be an over-night success.
2) I wish someone would have told me not to take things personal. It is a business.
3) I wish someone would have told me to under promise but over deliver.
4) I wish someone would have told me to delegate more. Just because you started the business does not mean you have to do all the work all the time. You must build a team you can trust so that you all can succeed.
5) I wish someone would have told me to take breaks and stand by them. My husband likes to tell my “Baby, Rome was not built in a day.”
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
I take the news cycles in stride. I do recognize that many of the news stories are traumatic, so I must balance it with looking at shows that make me laugh helps. Since my daughters are younger, I get the opportunity to see funny shows that relate to them, so it keeps my mind at ease. We are now working out more and while I work out, I binge-watch comedy shows or thrillers.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
If I could inspire a movement, it would be called “Learn Thy Neighbor.” There are so many extraordinary things that we can learn from people all around us. If we could just take the time to learn and not hate I think we could be a better people. I tell people who work with me, I am not concerned about your race or your gender. I just need to know that you are here to help us continue to move forward and upward.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I would love to have lunch with Stephen King. He is my favorite author!
How can our readers follow you online?
They can follow me on Facebook or Instagram @raquelrileythomas.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Thank you kindly. Same to you!